If we are honest with our thinking we must admit that any idea about God must exclude sin. God is holy. God is good. God is just. God is righteous altogether. If we cannot have that kind of God, it would not be worth while having a God at all. One cult has seized upon this fact of God’s goodness and has used it to support its utterly false idea that sin can not therefore exist in the knowledge of God and that sin is unreality. They go as far as to say, "Can God overlook the law of righteousness which destroys the belief called sin?"
Yet sin exists. We see its fruit round about us, if we go to the slums or to the suburbs. Sin from every quarter manifests itself in the law courts and the hospitals; and even in the cemeteries. A group of atheists who are at work in our country have seized upon this fact of sin and seek to turn it against God: They give as one of the five fundamentals of the atheist creed, "The existence of evil: — The patent fact that renders irrational the belief in a beneficent, omnipotent being who cares for man."
There you have the two extremes. Mrs. Eddy would deny the reality of evil because of the existence of a God Who is good. The atheists would deny the reality of God because of the existence of evil. The truth lies midway between these two extremes. God exists; evil exists. Our purpose is to outline the history of sin; to show where it did not originate as well as where it did originate; to trace its course, its nature, its extent and its end.
There is only one place where we can find source material for our study. The atheists are quite right in pointing out in their five fundamentals "that all ideas come from experience, and that, therefore, man can form no conception of God." This closes the door to any speculative ideas of man about what God might or might not be, but it opens the door wide to a revelation from God. True, man can not, by searching, find out God; but God can, by seeking, find out man, and we believe it can be demonstrated that He has found man and has given to man a revelation of Himself. This gives us a change of venue in religious problems, takes us from under the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts of reason and brings us to the supernatural court of revelation, and allows us to find a supreme court from which there is no appeal. Indeed, the court of reason must concur, since the existence of a tribunal that can not err, makes belief in its findings the simplest as well as the very highest function of reason. So we turn to the Word of God to see what light it can shed upon the history of sin.
First of all God tells us, speaking of Himself, that He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13) with any condoning, but rather that it is foreign to His being. He gives us a picture of His very throne with the burning angels that "rest not day and night saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).
Because God has all power He could keep us from knowing anything about Himself if He so desired. It necessarily follows that anything we ever can know about God must be the result of His revealing Himself. Here then, we have that which God wants us to know about Himself. He is holy, absolutely holy. He has eternally been the same and He will know no change. He can not even look upon sin with any thought other than abhorrence. So we conclude that sin did not have its origin in God. Sin is not eternal.
Where, then, did sin originate? God tells us very definitely. There is one verse that describes its entry into the universe. In the prophecy of Ezekiel, God reveals unto us the story of the creation of Lucifer, son of the morning. This being, who later became Satan, was created as the prime-minister of the universe, to rule for God. It is definitely stated of him, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee" (Ezekiel 28:15). We know from this that Satan and sin were not eternal. Satan, before his fall, had existed, perfect in all his ways.
What comfort for us to know that he is a creature, and that when the Creator’s purpose is accomplished, his rebellion shall be brought to a sudden end. The picture of the finding of sin in the heart of Satan is given to us in the book of Isaiah. "How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!... For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14).
The passage goes on to say that Satan shall be brought down to hell, but the paragraph that we have read is sufficient for our purpose. It confirms the revelation to Ezekiel that this being, created with great beauty, power and adornments was placed in high office, — king, to govern for God, — prophet, to be the mouthpiece for all divine utterance, — priest, to take the worship of the universe to God. It confirms the fact that this being fell through pride, through a desire to rise higher and usurp the place of God Himself. Pride that fomented rebellion was the germinal sin in this universe. Thus Lucifer became Satan, and began the struggle which, in reality, ended when Jesus Christ died on Calvary, although the serpent's body, with the crushed head is writhing in death agony and causing many dire results in the world today, and will continue to do so, until Christ returns to destroy the very presence of sin.
Someone may object that we are not presenting all the evidence if we do not make passing comment on Isaiah 45:7, which reads in the King James version, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I the LORD do all these things." The difficulty lies in the translation of the Hebrew word, ra, by the word evil. This word has various meanings, and while there are many passages in which the idea of moral evil is clearly in the word (contrary to the Scofield note in loc.), such as its usage in Genesis six to describe the state of man's heart before the flood, "only evil (ra) continually," the word clearly has a further meaning, that of adversity.
The Bible admits that there is pleasure in sin, thus showing the depraved taste of the race. God says that He had to add sorrow and afflictions so that man would not lie down in sin, and so be cradled into false hopes and thus fall to eternal doom. It might well be pointed out, that Segond, the great Swiss theologian, translator of the best French version of the Bible, has rendered this passage, "Je donne la prospérité, et Je crée l'adversité," which in English means, "I give prosperity and I create adversity."
We have established, now, two definite truths. Sin did not have its origin in God; and it is not eternal for it was first found in the heart of Lucifer who thus became Satan. All this happened in that time long before Adam, after the time of the original creation, and one of its results was the first judgment upon this earth which turned it from the perfect thing it was when it came from the will of God into the chaotic mass described in Genesis as being "without form and void." How many ages the earth remained in that condition, we do not know. Let the geologists add as many zeros as they desire to the age of the earth; they can never contradict the definite teachings of the Scripture. Millions, billions, yes, decillions of years, they may estimate what they like; there is room for all they can hope between the first two verses of the book of Genesis. And we might say for the benefit of those for whom this may be a new thought, that it is very old, and has been held by students of the Bible from earliest times.
When God moved to re-form the earth in the six days described in Genesis, Satan was quick to sense that here was a movement that spelled danger to him. We can understand his eagerness to involve the first inhabitants of our race in his cause, and so move to seduce them. We must disabuse our minds of popular conceptions, and read the Bible as it is, and not as people think it is. There are many who think that sin entered the earth because of the sin of Eve. It did not. Nowhere in the Bible does God hold Eve responsible for the fall of the human race. It was the man that was the guilty party. True, Satan tempted Eve first, and we can understand why. God had given the headship to the man. Had Adam sinned and then tempted Eve she could have replied to God that she had merely obeyed His command and had done what her husband had told her to do. God tells us very definitely that Adam was not deceived, but that the woman was deceived (2 Timothy 2:14). She thought that she would better the condition of Adam, and was honestly deceived. When the temptation came to Adam, he followed with deliberate knowledge that what he was doing was open rebellion.
This is why the Word of God never speaks of the sin of Eve, but always of the sin of Adam. We do not read, "As in Eve all die," but rather "As in Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). God also tells us that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;" and "by one man’s offense death reigned" (Romans 5:12,17).
This brings us one step along in our study. We see how sin entered the world, because of the open rebellion by disobedience of the first of the race. Now comes the very important question. How was sin transmitted from generation to generation until it reached its present situation in the world today? The Word of God gives us definite information about this matter, also.
God tells us that sin entered into the world by Adam. He also declares that sin entered the race because of Adam's sin. Some have attempted to argue that it was not just for God to call one man to account for the sins of another. Let no man mistake the facts. We are sinners by choice, every one of us, and there would be enough in that alone to hold us accountable before the bar of perfect justice and to condemn us as guilty. But God does not deal with symptoms; He deals with the real causes. He knows, and has declared, that men are not sinners merely because they sin, but that they sin because they are sinners.
God looks at the problem from a perspective quite different from that which must of necessity control man's viewpoint. In man’s way of looking at things, one is not a thief until he has stolen; one is not a murderer until he has killed. God sees the heart and knows how the natural law of inheritance has operated so that we inherit two arms instead of one and one head instead of two. The same laws hold good in the spiritual realm, and the very nature of sin comes down the race from generation to generation. He knows and has told us that a man steals because he has a heart with the roots of sin. He knows and has told us that a man kills because he has a heart with the roots of sin.
In some cases through those restrictions that society and the environment build around an individual some of these fruits of sin are not seen, but the roots are there nevertheless. If you are honest with yourself you must admit that you have within you the possibilities of every kind of lawlessness. The type of lawlessness which is most prevalent in the world today is not the open racketeering which ends in violence, but that quiet attitude of mind which is self-complacent with a smugness that would do away with the necessity of God's intervention in the life. This is Satan's masterpiece; to get men to that place of pride in their own achievements of righteousness that they feel that they have no need for a righteousness which is from God, and so is perfect.
Sinners by choice; sinners by nature; these things we have demonstrated. It is not difficult to go the further step and see that we are sinners by divine decree. God sees what we do; far more, He sees what we are; and so His decree has gone forth: the race is under a curse.
We should be happy that this is so. Were we dependent upon our own efforts for salvation we should be worried with a continual striving or else we should be lulled to sleep with that narcotic hope that would be satisfied with some inferior level of attainment rather than with the perfection that God’s righteousness requires Him to require. But since we can never achieve or attain any standard that would be worthy of God, the ground is cleared for the operation of His grace and we can accept God’s decree that we are lost, since it includes its corollary: He must do something to redeem us. So we are not surprised to find the great declaration of the Holy Spirit, "But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Galatians 3:22).
So the logical basis for salvation by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the divinely provided Savior, lies in the fact that men are sinners, not only by choice and by nature, but by divine decree. Since God'’s holiness was an effective barrier against man's doing anything to save himself, God's grace comes forth to do for man that which man cannot do for himself.
Now this doctrine is abhorrent to some minds, and the reason for this lies in the nature of sin. We have seen its origin and developed its history to the present day, showing that it touches the whole of the race. We now pass to the nature of sin. Here we are on a subject about which everyone has a general idea, and yet few people understand the full nature of sin as God describes it in His Word.
We will begin by that which is most obvious. God speaks of the flesh as being corrupt, and we have such proclamations as the following quotation from the Epistle to the Galatians: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Galatians 5:19-21).
For a great number of people I need go no further. They are conscious of the presence of these outward manifestations of sin within their lives, or they are aware of the tremendous struggle that is going on in the depths of their beings against the breaking out of these things. They are honest enough to accept the verdict of the convicting Spirit that sin is within them and has a strong hold upon them. They are at the door to salvation and need but look to the cross of Jesus Christ, Whose blood cleanses from all sin. When they thus accept Him as personal Savior, God will immediately plant within them a new life that is His own, and they will be possessed of a power that will keep them, if they will submit, from the domination of sin and its outbreaks.
There are others who will refuse to recognize themselves in that picture. They have been so trained in an environment that seeks to suppress all that is outside the pale of good taste that they have come to look upon themselves as being naturally good. We are quite ready to admit that, from man's point of view, there is a naturally good element in the human heart, but that in no wise eliminates the presence of sin in any heart.
Though all the fleshly manifestations may be well varnished and camouflaged, the word of the Lord Jesus remains true, "Those things which...come forth from the heart, defile man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things that defile a man" (Matthew 15:18-20). In some hearts the plans are growing and flowering in the life; in other lives they are kept hoed down; but in all cases the roots are in the heart. The first step to salvation is the admission before God that our hearts are far from Him. No one can be saved until he will first admit his need for salvation. For whether the life is manifesting vice or virtue, the word of God is not changed about the heart. He says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked — (incurably sick, one version has it) — who can know it? I the Lord search the heart" (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
Then the Word of God tells us that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Why are there cemeteries in the world? Simply because sin came in and brought its curse which includes the body. I do not have to insist upon the fact that our bodies are dying day by day, and that death always wins the race. God says this is a part of the nature of sin.
So we see that sin corrupts the moral nature; has brought the heart to desperate wickedness; affected the material body with physical death and, lastly, it has affected the state of mind of every individual out of Christ. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). This is the climax of the Bible teaching about the nature of sin. It brings the individual to the place where he is at enmity against God.
There are those who talk about God but are not talking about the God of the Bible. They may be friendly with the god of their imaginations, but the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of this Book, is a God of holiness, Who can save men only on a basis of the full satisfaction of His righteousness. This has been accomplished at the cross. The high water mark of men's enmity is reserved for the doctrine of salvation by grace apart from the works of the law. Enmity against God finds its supreme manifestation at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Were we to spend just a moment speaking of the extent of the reign of sin, we could do no better than to quote a passage from the Psalms. "The Lord looked down from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God." What was His verdict when He had thus looked? "They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:2-3). The first three chapters of Romans paint the same black picture. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "There is none righteous, no, not one." We conclude with the Scriptures, that all are under sin. Sin, in its extent, is universal.
Were we to dwell upon the manner in which sin manifests itself, we could well write hundreds of pages. Remember, merely, that it manifests itself not only in vice but in virtue. Sin is never so subtle as when it is religious. It can kill a martyr and pray about it. It can crucify Christ and rejoice.
We would not have a message that is complete were we not to mention the closing chapter in the history of sin. Sin, which had its origin in the proud heart of Lucifer who wanted to be like God; sin, which entered this world, not through Eve but through Adam; sin, which passed by inheritance and by God's decree to all the race of Adam; sin, which destroys the body, corrupts the moral nature, springs up within the heart, and keeps the mind at enmity with God; sin, which extends throughout the race and touches every being, and so is universal in its sway; sin, which manifests itself in prisons and in pulpits, in vice and in virtue, in robbery and in religion, in immoral publican and in moral Pharisee; sin shall have its end.
Jesus Christ was manifest that He might destroy Satan and his works. At the cross He made a show of him openly. There the bloody heel of Christ was placed upon the head of the serpent, Satan. Though the body may writhe, the work of Christ is secure, and the God of peace shall send the Lord Jesus once more to the earth to make effective the eternal triumph of righteousness. The earth shall yet be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Satan shall be cast into the lake of fire; all those who refuse the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ must follow the prince of sin; those who know Christ shall have every vestige of sin removed from their being and shall be like Christ. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
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On this Event Friday, the Alliance is preparing for another virtual conference event: the 2020 Quakertown Conference on Reformed Theology, LIVE November 13th and 14th! Visit AllianceNet.org for more info. In celebration, we’re giving another listen to the 2016 Quakertown Conference, which focused on the Doctrines of Grace. Today’s plenary features Joel Beeke on Irresistable Grace.All Sermons by Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc